Interview with Toshihiro Kitta

Japan Earthquake Science Exploration Agency, Inc. (JESEA)

Data gathered from 1,270 Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) based control stations constructed by the Geospatial Information Authority is analyzed to predict forthcoming earthquakes using a new methodology developed by Dr. Shunji Murai, professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo, and Mr. Harumi Araki of the Environmental Geology Laboratory.

DigiLetter: How was JESEA originally established?

Toshihiro Kitta: Although this was outside my field, last summer I had the chance to meet with Prof. Shunji Murai, professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo and a world authority on surveying engineering. Prof. Murai mentioned, “Before the Great East Japan Earthquake hit, there were pre-signals in the data from the electron-reference points that were set up by the Geospatial Information Authority of Japan.” However, there was a general atmosphere back then that only seismologists could make comments on earthquakes.

After the Great East Japan Earthquake, that social trend began to change and a number of people started trying to predict earthquakes on their own. I also heard from Prof. Murai that he would be eager to deliver earthquake prediction information to a wide audience. I invited him to form a company with me and that’s how JESEA came to be.

Japan is an earthquake-prone country, and statistics show that there are 7 or 8 earthquakes with a death toll of more than 1,000 every hundred years. We experienced the Great East Japan Earthquake in the 2000s. Statistically speaking, there will be 6 or 7 more earthquakes in the coming eighty years. We wondered if we could provide a service utilizing Prof. Murai’s earthquake prediction method.

DL: What is an electron-reference point?

TK: The Geospatial Information Authority of Japan set them up after the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake. If you take a look at the signs posted at the points, it clearly states, “This data will be used as a basis for surveying land, producing maps, and predicting earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.” In short, the electron-reference point was set up to utilize basic data for the prediction of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Japan is equipped with 1,270 of these devices throughout the country, but seismologists do not use them for earthquake prediction.

Therefore, we decided to use them from the vantage point of surveying. We predict earthquakes using Prof. Murai’s patented earthquake prediction method in addition another patent-pending method.

Prof. Murai analyzed 162 earthquakes with magnitudes of 6 or greater that occurred during the 8 years between January 1, 2000 and December 31, 2007, and confirmed pre-signals for all of them. To put it another way, he verified that these analyses could be applied toward predicting earthquakes.

DL: JESEA predicts not only earthquakes, but also volcanic eruptions. It is said that there were volcanic eruptions coupled with great earthquakes in the past. Were there any signs of eruptions that occurred in conjunction with the Great East Japan Earthquake?

TK: In the past, there was a 100% probability that there would be large volcanic eruptions after earthquakes with magnitudes of 9 or greater, but we do not see any signs of large volcanic eruptions in Japan at this time.

However, recently a new island emerged near the Ogasawara Island chain and Sakurajima experienced the most explosive eruption in recorded history. These two events appear to have happened at a distance, but they were actually located on the east and west sides of the Philippine Sea Plate. Therefore, you can interpret it to mean that we’ve seen an increase in activity from the Philippine Sea Plate. There was an earthquake near Tori Island the other day and our data also shows abnormal values from Iwo Island. I believe we can say that the Philippine Sea Plate is acting strangely.

We don’t mean to cause people anxiety though. That’s why we simply show the data and say, “This kind of data has appeared so be careful.” In that sense, the only area where actual warnings should be given based on our data is the Nankai area. Although Shizuoka, Hakone, Miura Peninsula and Boso Peninsula have recently returned abnormal values, we cannot say there will be a great earthquake in the very near future that could be attributed to the Sagami Trough of the Philippines Sea Plate. However, we still believe that we need to pay great attention to these activities.

DL: Finally, is there anything you’d like to tell your readers?

TK: Upon analysis of the ground data, JESEA notifies you with an alert on a map where the abnormal value was recorded. We also write out and deliver our earthquake and volcanic eruption predictions based on our data.

Our ultimate goal is to protect your life. Of course, I believe you are prepared for everyday weather disasters, but we want to help by preparing you for those times when our predictions indicate that an earthquake may occur in your area.